The final lesson my smashed little toe taught me was that there is more to reclaiming joy than accepting our feelings and rewriting our story. Once that goofy toe stopped throbbing, I limped to the beach. I had less than a block to go since the resort I worked at that summer was on the shore of Lake Michigan. When I arrived, I plopped down onto the warm, dry sand, leaned back, bracing myself on my hands, and breathed in the view.
If you’ve never been to the shore of a Great Lake, don’t underestimate the scene that greeted me. The water of this sweetwater sea looked like it stretched forever. The horizon was an endless straight line where the cobalt blue of deepwater met the light blue of sky. The wind off the lake was cool and sweet. A Great Lake smells different than an ocean. To me it’s the smell of home — fresh and clean. I filled up with it, and with the coolness of wind on my cheeks, and the warmth of sand under my palms.
No thought. No words in mind. Just feeling. Just being. Utter joy.
No matter where we stand in the great debate about the nature of humanity (Are we spiritual beings having a material experience, or merely meat?), most of us would admit that the life of the flesh matters. And isn’t it wonderful that it does? It’s the material, the solid sweetness of digging our bare feet into sand or feeling the wind on our faces that ground and center us even in the worst times.
Our task, then, is to stop, look and feel. Open our eyes, ears, noses, and skin to the reality of the space we inhabit at the moment. If we can’t get out to nature, we can look up at the sky. We all know the joy of a blue sky, but even clouds can be beautiful in their delicious variations of white and gray. If we can’t see the sky, then we can look down. Is there beauty in the rocks, or an unexpected sparkle? Is there soil we can touch and explore? Or we can look around us? Can we find fascination in the feel of the wood of a desk or a chair? The sharp coolness of the metal around us? Is the aroma of the air unexpectedly delightful? Is that a bird singing or a person?
Stand or sit. See what’s in front, below, or around you. Or close your eyes and listen, sniff and feel. Come into the moment and rest.
This image of Lake Michigan is from tmannis via pixabay. Thanks!